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kottke.org posts about TV

Trailer for Season Four of The Handmaid’s Tale

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2020

Season four of The Handmaid’s Tale is coming to Hulu in 2021. I found season 3 to be increasingly outlandish — not in terms of the depicted fascist policies and behaviors of Gilead (Atwood has stated that in her books & the TV series, all events have a precedent) but just in terms of “How the hell is June still alive and working in Gilead?!” Also, the use of closeups of Elisabeth Moss’s facial expressions to convey emotion was overused to the point of cliche. But I will definitely give season four a shot, especially now that we know where the series is ultimately headed.

Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us Available to Watch Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2020

Netflix has put When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s 4-episode mini-series about the Central Park Five, in front of their paywall for free viewing. Here’s the trailer:

The 2013 Ken Burns documentary The Central Park Five is available to watch on the PBS site and also on Amazon.

As previously noted, DuVernay’s 13th and Selma are also both available to watch online for free.

Now Streaming - Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2020

For 35 years, activist and archivist Marion Stokes recorded television news coverage on VHS tapes, amassing a collection of hundreds of thousands of hours of footage. Matt Wolf has produced a documentary about Stokes called Recorder: The Marian Stokes Project.

For over 30 years, Marion Stokes obsessively and privately recorded American television news twenty-four hours a day. A civil rights-era radical who became fabulously wealthy and reclusive later in life, her obsession started with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 — at the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle. It ended on December 14, 2012 as the Sandy Hook massacre played on television while Marion passed away. In between, Marion filled 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows and commercials that show us how television shaped the world of today and in the process tell us who we were.

A mystery in the form of a time capsule, Recorder delves into the strange life of a woman for whom home taping was a form of activism to protect the truth (the public didn’t know it, but the networks had been disposing their archives for decades into the trashcan of history) and though her visionary and maddening project nearly tore her family apart, her extraordinary legacy is as priceless as her story is remarkable.

The trailer is above and you can watch the whole thing for free on PBS for a limited time.

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas HBO Series Is Available to Watch Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2020

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas was an HBO documentary series created and hosted by writer and comedian Wyatt Cenac. The entire run of the show is available for free on YouTube (and on the HBO website) for the next month, but of particular interest is the first season, which was dedicated to the problem of policing in America. The first episode of season one, embedded above, explores police training (specifically “warrior training”) and how it contributed to the death of Philando Castile in Minneapolis. The season’s other episodes cover community policing, police abolition, use of force, and abuse of power.

Cenac says of the show:

The show’s not perfect. You can see when my eyes are reading a teleprompter because HBO’s legal team needed me to say something very specifically so they didn’t get sued. But the show wasn’t about being perfect or even about being right. It was about trying to have a dialogue.

When the smoke clears, we’re still going to need to find a way forward. And we’re going to have to find a way to do it together because this country is a dingy apartment and we’re all just a bunch of Craigslist roommates that have to find a way not to eat each other’s cheese.

See also Ava DuVernay’s Selma and 13th Available to Watch Online for Free.

John Oliver on Policing in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2020

For the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dedicated his entire show to policing in America. It is worth watching as a summary of how we got here, what the obstacles to reform have been, and where we can go from here.

We’re actually not going to focus on Trump tonight nor are we — unlike some in cable news — going to dwell on the incidents of looting that occurred, except to say if you said the name “Macy’s” more than you’ve said the name “Breonna Taylor” this week you can very much fuck off.

Likewise if you asking why spontaneous decentralized protests can’t control every one of its participants more than you are asking the same about a taxpayer-funded heavily regimented paid workforce, you can also — in the words of this generation’s Robert Frost — suck my dick and choke on it.

The Simpsons Parody of Succession

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2020

In the “couch gag” preceding The Simpsons episode that aired on May 3, 2020, they did a pitch-perfect parody of the opening title sequence of Succession, complete with the iconic theme song. (via @omcfarlane)

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2020

Have a Good Trip is an upcoming Netflix documentary about tripping on psychedelics, like a celebrity/comedy version of Erowid’s drug trip report database.

Mixing comedy with a thorough investigation of psychedelics, HAVE A GOOD TRIP explores the pros, cons, science, history, future, pop cultural impact, and cosmic possibilities of hallucinogens. The film tackles the big questions: Can psychedelics have a powerful role in treating depression, addiction, and helping us confront our own mortality? Are we all made of the same stuff? Is love really all we need? Can trees talk?

The celebs telling their trip stories include Sting, Sarah Silverman, Ad-Rock, and Rosie Perez. I Laughed Out Loud at A$AP Rocky’s short anecdote in the trailer. I hope we’ll hear more about his musical rainbow when Have a Good Trip premieres on May 11.

My Recent Media Diet, The Pandemic Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2020

Well, it has been awhile. I have not done one of these since late December. First I was away for a few weeks and then, well, you know. I’m not even sure if anyone wants to read this sort of thing right now — I barely wanted to write it — but I know a lot of people are stuck at home, looking for stuff to watch, read, and listen to. Plus, keeping the media diet going feels normal, at least a little.

If you’re strapped for time/attention, my top recs are Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Devs, Exhalation, Little Women, Unbelievable, Future Nostalgia, The Overstory, and You’re Wrong About.

Devs. Fantastic. I loved every minute of this gem. (A)

Unbelievable. Based on a true story. Excellent performances by Toni Collette and (especially) Merritt Wever. (A)

The Report. Also based on a true story. The Bush presidency still does not get the credit in terms of the harm it did, and continues to do, to America. (B+)

Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Killer collection of tech/science stories. (A)

Slow Burn (season 3). Not just about Biggie/Tupac, but about 90s hip-hop & the cultural reaction to it. (B+)

AirPods Pro. Wearing these feels a little like the future. (A)

Aeronauts. Perfectly fine. (B)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Straight-up masterpiece. (A)

Don’t F**k with Cats. How on Earth did I not hear anything about this case when it originally happened and why is it not more widely known? A media-obsessed wanna-be serial killer caught by online sleuths? It seems like fiction. (B+)

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. This maybe would have been better at half the length. (B+)

1917. Technically stunning but I never truly got involved in the story because I was trying to see where the cuts were. (B+)

Icarus. Almost unbelievable where the story goes in this. (A-)

Little Women. My choice for the best 2019 movie. (A)

My Brilliant Friend (season 2). The second part of the first season set a high bar to clear, but I’m loving this season so far. (A)

Jojo Rabbit. Like Inglourious Basterds directed by Wes Anderson. (A-)

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Fittingly finished this on the plane to Vietnam. (B+)

Anthropocene. Typically excellent look at the impact of humans on the Earth by Edward Burtynsky. (A-)

Frances Ha. Baby Adam Driver! (B+)

Catch Me If You Can. Spielberg (and DiCaprio) at their most entertaining. (A-)

Edge of Tomorrow. Love this movie. An underrated gem. (A)

The Overstory by Richard Powers. A wonderful novel about trees and the natural world. (A)

Titanic. A masterclass of blockbuster filmmaking and storytelling. (A)

Good Place (season 4). Loved the ending to this. (A-)

Outbreak. Contagion. Deep Impact. 2012. The Core. I Am Legend. I have been watching all of the disaster movies. They are terrible and I love them. (A/C-)

The Aftermath. The ending of this felt random, a gotcha to the audience rather than the natural end to the story. (B)

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. I had medium hopes for this, but the Seth Rogan episode made me laugh harder than I have in months. (B+)

Watchmen. The first three episodes gave me this-is-gonna-end-like-Lost vibes and then they announced there wasn’t going to be second season, so I stopped watching. (B-)

The Farewell. Wonderful. (A-)

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Started slow but finished strong. Keep your eyes peeled for all of the sci-fi references. (B+)

Birds of Prey. This was mindless. And not in a good way. (D)

McMillion$. My main takeaway was being aghast at how much time, energy, and money the FBI put into this case, which one of the lead investigators only pursued because it was fun. (B)

Star Trek: Picard. I would have voted against bringing this beloved character back (for fear they’d ruin it) but I enjoyed almost every second of this. (B+)

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. Another great book from Larson. The Battle of Britain is surprisingly relevant to these pandemic times. (A-)

Onward. Not my favorite Pixar, but solid as always. (B)

Future Nostalgia. Love this album, not a single weak song. (A)

The Mandalorian. It took me too long to realize that this was a western. I don’t care that much for westerns. (B)

Star Wars Episodes I II III. I needed some true garbage to watch about two weeks into my self-quarantine. These movies are mostly terrible. (C-)

You’re Wrong About. I’ve mentioned this podcast before, but You’re Wrong About has become essential listening for me. The OJ and DC Sniper series are both great, and their episode Why Didn’t Anyone Go to Prison for the Financial Crisis was excellent and surprisingly didn’t really mention the actual crisis at all. (A)

Iron Man. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. The Avengers. The kids and I are rewatching all the MCU movies in release order. Some are better than others. (B)

Tiger King. I watched the first episode and…is this anything more than just gawping at yokels? Does this documentary have anything important to say about society or is it just reality TV? (C)

LBJ and the Great Society. A fascinating look at a brief moment in time when our government worked and how that happened. (A-)

The Case of the Missing Hit. You’ve likely heard this instant-classic episode of Reply All by now, but if you haven’t, it’s worth the hype. (A-)

Tempest in a Teacup. Outside/In talks to Charles Mann about a passage in 1491 about passenger pigeons, which suggested that their famous abundance was a relatively recent occurence caused by the decimation of indigenous populations in the Americas by Europeans and their diseases. (B+)

The Living Room. The episode of Love + Radio that inspired the Oscar-winning The Neighbor’s Window. (A-)

Simulcast. Tycho’s instrumental companion album to Weather. (B+)

Minority Report. This was cheesier than I remembered it. Hasn’t aged well in some ways. (B)

Pelican Brief. So 90s. But I’d forgotten the star power of Denzel and Julia Roberts, even in a mediocre movie. (B)

Murder on the Orient Express. Rewatch. Branagh sure does chew the scenery, but it is fun to watch. (B+)

Gemini Man. Action. Sci fi. Mostly forgettable. (B-)

Yesterday. Cute flick. (B)

Monsters University. This was the only Pixar movie I had never seen. And now I have. (B)

Dark Phoenix. Slightly more entertaining than I was expecting. (B)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

From Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History, a series about the history of genetics based on Mukherjee’s book of the same name. Here’s a trailer:

The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.

This looks great, especially if this clip about Nancy Wexler’s crusade to find a cure for Huntington’s disease is representative of the whole:

In 1968, Nancy Wexler’s mother was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease - Huntington’s. Facing a 50-50 chance of contracting Huntington’s herself, Wexler — a non-scientist — began an odyssey to find the gene that causes the disease. For three decades, Wexler searched for treatments but chose not to get tested. As time passed, she noticed changes in the way she moved. Finally, in early 2020, Wexler decided to face her fears.

Part 1 of the series is now streaming on PBS with part 2 set to premiere next week.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag Play to be Streamed Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

Fleabag Play

A recording of a live performance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play Fleabag (on which the TV show is based) is going to be streamed online to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Said Waller-Bridge:

I hope this filmed performance of Fleabag can help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times. Thank you to all our partners and to the creative team who have waived their royalties from this production to raise money for such vital causes in this unbelievably challenging situation. All money raised will support the people throughout our society who are fighting for us on the frontlines and those financially devastated by the crisis, including those in the theatre community. Thank you in advance to those who donate. Now go get into bed with Fleabag! It’s for charity!

It’s available in the UK & Ireland right now and will appear on Amazon Prime in the US on April 10. (thx, caroline)

Update: Here it is on Amazon — “all proceeds, outside of taxes, go to charities supporting those affected by COVID-19 pandemic”.

HBO Is Streaming Dozens of Shows & Movies for Free in April

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Wire Chess

During the month of April, HBO is streaming dozens of shows, documentaries & movies for free via HBO GO & HBO NOW. Shows include The Wire (my personal fave), Succession, VEEP, The Sopranos, True Blood, Six Feet Under, and Silicon Valley. HBO usually offers a few things outside their paywall, but never anything this extensive.

Samuel L. Jackson: “Stay the Fuck at Home!”

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

On Jimmy Kimmel the other night, F-bomb maestro Samuel L. Jackson read a new short story/poem by Adam Mansbach (author of Go the Fuck to Sleep) called Stay the Fuck at Home to promote safe behavior during the pandemic. You can skip to about 6:00 to hear the story:

The book isn’t available for sale, so Jackson, Kimmel, and Mansbach are asking people to donate to Feeding America.

Some Good News with John Krasinski

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Krasinski thought it would be worthwhile to pause and take note of some good news happening in the world in this new YouTube series. As Andy Baio noted, this hewed so closely to Ze Frank’s The Show that I kept expecting to hear him call viewers “speed racers” and ask us to make an Earth sandwich. Keep your eyes peeled for a small The Office reunion with a certain regional manager via Zoom.

Stream Ken Burns’ Baseball Documentary Series for Free on PBS

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2020

It would have been Opening Day for baseball here in the US. Since we’re without the actual thing due to COVID-19, Ken Burns asked PBS to allow people to stream his 18-hour documentary series on baseball from 1994 for free (US & Canada). Here’s part one:

(via open culture)

Trailer for Season 2 of Ugly Delicious

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2020

Chef David Chang, who I guess is in the process of being not a chef now in the way that Bourdain became not a chef, is back for season 2 of Ugly Delicious, a food/travel/culture show on Netflix. From Eater:

Like the first season, this one promises to “use food as a vehicle to break down cultural barriers, tackle misconceptions and uncover shared experiences,” per a press release. The four episodes — only half the number of episodes as season 1 — will focus on food made for babies and children (“Kids’ Menu”), the vast world of Indian food (“Don’t Call It Curry”), the appeal and mystique of steak (“Steak”), and the varied cuisines that encompass what’s generalized as “Middle Eastern” cooking (“As the Meat Turns”).

I really liked season 1 of this show and I am not going to lie, I would love to somehow be involved in season 3. David, I have a passport, love to eat, and can talk about *gestures around at website* almost anything. Hit me up!

FRONTLINE - Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From PBS’s FRONTLINE comes Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, a feature-length documentary investigation into Amazon and its founder.

Jeff Bezos is not only the richest man in the world, he has built a business that is without precedent in the history of American capitalism. His power to shape everything from the future of work to the future of commerce to the future of technology is unrivaled. As politicians and regulators around the world start to consider the global impact of Amazon — and how to rein in Bezos’ power — FRONTLINE investigates how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.

One of the 10 key takeaways from the film is how deliberately Amazon attacked the publishing industry:

“Amazon took over a large market share of the publishing industry very, very fast,” James Marcus, a former senior Amazon.com editor, tells FRONTLINE — a situation that he says prompted publishers to realize, “‘Oh, wait a minute, they’re our partner, but they now have the beginnings of a boot on our windpipe’.” Inside the company, the team had launched a strategy that some called “the Gazelle Project,” because they’d heard Bezos wanted them to pursue publishers the way a cheetah pursues a sickly gazelle. “Well, you don’t go after the strongest,” Randy Miller, who ran the European book team, says of the strategy. “He’s like, ‘The cheetah. The cheetah looks for the weak, looks for the sick, looks for the small.’” That way, by the time it comes to take on the publishers at the top, “the noise has gotten back to them. They’re going to know this is coming, and chances are you may be able to settle that without a full-on war.”

Here’s a trailer but the whole thing is available online, embedded above and on YouTube.

How Miles Davis Made “Kind of Blue”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From the feature-length documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool that’s debuting on PBS’s American Masters next week, this is a short clip about how Miles’ masterpiece, Kind of Blue, came together in the studio.

Miles Davis didn’t provide sheet music for his musicians during the recording of his iconic album “Kind of Blue.” He said that “I didn’t write out the music for ‘Kind of Blue.’ But brought in sketches ‘cause I wanted a lot of spontaneity in the playing.”

Here’s the trailer and a couple of other clips from the film. (via @tedgioia)

Normal People TV Series

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2020

The BBC and Hulu are producing a 12-part TV series based on Sally Rooney’s book Normal People (which I excerpted here). The first trailer is above and I have to say, color me intrigued. (via the recently relaunched recs)

Darth Costanza

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2020

The premise is pretty simple and there’s no need to oversell it because you can imagine what this is going to sound like going in and it delivers perfectly: George Costanza’s father’s voice dubbed over Darth Vader’s dialogue in Star Wars. Serenity now!

(Quickly: Luke = Jerry, Han = George, Leia = Elaine, Chewie = Kramer. Does that even work? (Obi-Wan = Uncle Leo? Is 3PO Newman?))

Pandemic - How to Prevent an Outbreak

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2020

With the Wuhan coronavirus in the news, this is a timely release from Netflix: Pandemic is a 6-part series on the inevitable worldwide disease outbreak and what’s being done to stop it, or at least to mitigate its effects.

Dozens of Classic Interviews from The Dick Cavett Show

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2020

Open Culture’s Josh Jones takes us on a tour of the amazing YouTube channel for The Dick Cavett Show. The show ran from 1968 well into the 80s and Cavett was known for having on big name guests and getting them to talk about important and interesting topics, making the show a more serious older sibling to The Tonight Show. Jones says Cavett “had a way of making everyone around him comfortable enough to reveal just a little more than they might otherwise”.

The show’s YouTube channel contains dozens and dozens of interview clips, including Marlon Brando talking about rejecting his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather:

Some of the other videos feature John Lennon on why The Beatles ended, Jimi Hendrix talking about performing at Woodstock, Orson Welles recounting a dinner with Adolf Hitler, Janis Joplin’s final TV interview, Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, and David Crosby fresh off of their appearances at Woodstock, Robin Williams on depression, and Carly Simon talks about stage fright. Check out the post at Open Culture for more or cross-reference this Wikipedia list of the show’s most memorable moments with the YouTube videos.

Steven Soderbergh’s Media Diet for 2019

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2020

Every year, director Steven Soderbergh publishes a list of the movies, books, TV series, short films, and short stories he’s watched and read over the course of the year (one of the inspirations for my media diet posts). For many creators, the key to making good work is to read and watch widely with an emphasis on quality — it’s difficult make great work if your ingredients are poor — so Soderbergh’s 2019 list is a fascinating look at the director’s inputs for the next year’s creative endeavors.

Some observations:

The First and Last Time Mister Rogers Sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” on TV

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2020

Including special shows, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran for 912 episodes and at the beginning of each one, Rogers sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” while putting his sweater on and changing his shoes. In the video above, you can compare his rendition of the song from the first episode (February 19, 1968) and the final episode (August 31, 2001). It would take a significant effort (and might actually be impossible because he sings the song at a different pace each time), but I’d love to see someone cut together a version of this that features all 912 openings strung together chronologically, so you can see Rogers get older as he sings (a la Noah Kalina’s Everyday).

The same YouTube channel also edited together the first and last times Rogers sang “Good Feeling”:

(via open culture)

McMillions, an HBO Documentary on the Massive McDonald’s Monopoly Scandal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

In July 2018, I posted about the FBI investigation into the multi-million dollar McDonald’s Monopoly fraud.

For years, Jerry Jacobson was in charge of the security of the game pieces for McDonald’s Monopoly, one of the most successful marketing promotions in the fast food giant’s history. And for almost as long, Jacobson had been passing off winning pieces to family, friends, and “a sprawling network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, convicts, drug traffickers”, to the tune of more than million in cash & prizes.

In early February, HBO is airing a five-part documentary series on the investigation called McMillions:

My Recent Media Diet, The Late 2010s Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 30, 2019

Every month or two for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since late October.

Uncut Gems. Watching this movie replicates very closely what it feels like to live in NYC (and not in a good way). This movie contains one of my favorite scenes of the year and Sandler is a genius. (A)

Seduce And Destroy with Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie & Paul Thomas Anderson (A24 Podcast). The best bits of this were fascinating but some of it was too inside baseball. Listen to this after seeing Uncut Gems. (B+)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The Iliad as a romance novel (of sorts). Loved it. (A)

Hustlers. Jennifer Lopez did not require fancy cameras or the de-aging CGI of The Irishman to make her look 20 years younger. (B+)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Such a great alchemy of subjects — kind of a miracle how it all works together. (A-)

Jesus Is King. Boring. Christian hip hop isn’t any better than Christian rock. Born again Kanye? I miss the old Kanye… (C-)

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Wonderfully creative. A couple of really disturbing parts though for kids. (A-)

The Dark Crystal. Watched this after Age of Resistance and it holds up really well. (B+)

Tunes 2011-2019. Gets better with every listen. (A-)

The Laundromat. Soderbergh and Streep? This should have been better. (B)

The Fifth Season by N.K Jemison. Liked this but it didn’t make me want to immediately start the next book in the series. (B+)

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. Lots to chew on in this one but I ultimately didn’t finish it. But that’s more on me than Harari. (B+)

David Whyte: The Conversational Nature of Reality (On Being). “Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.” Whyte sounds like a fascinating person. (A-)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Re-watched the entire series over the past several months. Strong in the middle seasons but not a great ending. (B+)

The OJ Simpson Trial (You’re Wrong About…). Excellent multi-part reexamination of the OJ trial centered on the women, principally Nicole Brown Simpson but also Marcia Clark and Paula Barbieri. It took me awhile to get used to the sometimes-too-casual banter about distressing subject matter, but their knowledge and discussion of the subject matter won me over. (A-)

Ad Astra. The filmmakers couldn’t find a way to do this movie without the voiceover? Just let Pitt act…everything he says is obvious from his face. Beautiful though. (B+)

Dead Wake by Erik Larson. Engaging account of the sinking of the Lusitania, which eventually & circuitously led to the entry of the United States into World War I. (A-)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve read with my kids. (B-)

The Devil Next Door. Interesting story but I wanted more from this re: the nature of truth & evil. (B)

The Lighthouse. Sunshine x Fight Club. (A-)

Ford v Ferrari. Driving home from the theater, it took every ounce of self-control not to put the pedal on the floor and see if my car can do 120 on a Vermont county road. (A-)

The Crown (season 3). I didn’t like this quite much as the first two seasons, but I did like the overt and not-so-overt references to Brexit. There was a low-stakes-ness to this season which fits with other exported British media (Downton, British Baking Show) and the country’s rapidly dwindling status as a world power. (B+)

Menu Mind Control (Gastropod). Really interesting discussion of how menus are constructed to balance the needs of the restaurant and the desires of the diner. Buckle up though…Gastropod is one of the densest podcasts out there. (A-)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. A surprisingly trippy adaptation of one of my favorite magazine articles on Fred Rogers. Hanks is great as usual. (B+)

Coco. Another Pixar gem. (A-)

A Table for Two, Please? (Talk Money). From a new podcast by my pal Mesh — the first episode is about the business side of opening and running restaurants. (B+)

Knives Out. From the hype this got, I was expecting a bit more than a good murder mystery but it was just a good murder mystery. (B+)

Marriage Story. Great performances all around, but Jesus why did I watch this? It captures very well the feeling and experience of divorce. Total PTSD trigger though. (D/A-)

Galatea. Engaging short story by Madeline Miller. (B+)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. Impossible at this point for anyone to objectively review the ninth movie in a series which in some ways has defined culture of the last 40 years. I loved it, even the hokey parts. (A)

High Life. Not even sure what to say about this one. (B-)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Embroidery of Homer Simpson Disappearing into the Bushes

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2019

Homer Bushes Embroidery

Move over, every other craft project — this Homer Simpson disappears into the bushes embroidery piece by Rayna of Hermit Girl Creations is the best embroidery in the history of the world. The scene is taken from a 1994 episode of The Simpsons called Homer Loves Flanders and has become a bit of a meme in recent years; here’s the clip:

Check out her Instagram or Etsy shop — she does a lot of other Simpsons-based embroidery as well as Charlie Brown, The Office, Dr. Seuss, Frog & Toad, Stranger Things, and Futurama. Looks like she takes commissions via Instagram DM.

Fleabag: The Scriptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 26, 2019

I am sorry this is too late to make my holiday gift guide, but I just found out it existed: Fleabag: The Scriptures consists of the scripts for both seasons of Fleabag, the original stage directions for the play, and commentary from Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Fleabag Scriptures

Her coat falls open. She only has her bra on underneath. She pulls out the little sculpture of the woman with no arms. It sits on her lap. Two women. One real. One not. Both with their innate femininity out.

The book has been out since November. How am I just finding out about this now?!

SNL’s Honest Kids Clothing Ad

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 24, 2019

This Saturday Night Live mock TV commercial for a Macy’s holiday sale cuts right to the truth about buying clothes for kids that aren’t right for them or their parents.

Some of their deals include “40% off cozy corduroys that’ll pinch his little nuts”, “kids jackets that are so big & thick they won’t fit in their carseat anymore”, and “everyday savings on mittens they’ll lose, shirts with the wrong Frozen princess, sweaters that make them hot”.

How the Succession Theme Song Was Composed

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2019

Sitting at a piano, composer Nicholas Britell explains how he came up with the theme music to Succession.

I’m constantly winding in these notes that aren’t part of the scale to just to kind of jolt the music in a different direction. So you see that things are always kind of off-kilter with themselves — like the family in the show.

See also The Succession Theme Works Over Any TV Show Title Sequence.

RIP Carroll Spinney, Puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2019

Sad news from Sesame Street: Carroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for almost 50 years, died today at age 85.

Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending. His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.

Spinney had retired from the show last year, citing health concerns. Here’s a look at how he operated the Big Bird puppet (more here):

Big Bird Inside

Spinney came out with a book in 2003 called The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers and was the subject of a 2015 documentary called I Am Big Bird. Here’s a trailer:

At Sesame Street creator Jim Henson’s memorial service at Cathedral of St. John the Divine after his unexpected death in 1990, Spinney walked out and, in full Big Bird costume, sang “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” in tribute to his friend:

Total silence after he finished…I can’t imagine there was a dry eye in the house after that. Rest in peace, gentle men.